Category Archives: convergence

Data is the new Journal. (2 of 2)


Social sharing sites like Facebook and Google+ are great for countless reasons. The discovery factor is amplified and quick. We have the ability to catch up and communicate with people easily and on-the-go.

Our social networks, paired alongside various algorithms, place everything in somewhat omnidirectional proportion to our personal interests. Some folks watch the stream of information passively while others can’t help but participate. Frequently. Like a habit that’s hard to break. But habits are usually created because there’s some sort of personal payoff involved. What’s in it here?

Do we participate out of boredom? For entertainment? Documentation? Self-declaration? All of the above?

The things we share don’t go away over time. Our photos, links, and general top-of-mind fodder are almost immediately forgotten before becoming a very vague distant digital memory. Yet unlike a journal, they’re not stored privately somewhere to uncover at a later time. Our “shareables” publish immediately and are saved forever, for all to see.

The good, the bad, and the things that may or may not emerge later to haunt us. Profile photos, status updates, comments back and forth between old friends, lovers, colleagues.

It’s the personal information we post on a whim that documents where we were and what we were interested in at the time.  These bookmarks serve as a haunting benchmark – of not only where we were, but who we once were.  Some might agree that it’s a convenient way to journal — with only a wayward amount of revelatory truth.

These captured moments are issued a temporary place with degrees of importance that vary greatly. Will we care about what we shared five years ago? Probably not. It might be amusing. It may never be revisited again. But what if it were?

Not always self-aware, these tiny memoirs forget to note the times we were truly happy — because we were too busy actually being happy to take note of them in the first place.

Yet there we are — always seeming to document the times we were bored, overly caffeinated, or mildly interested  in the subject or moment at hand. And we just so happened to have the phone or laptop nearby to document said thought or story.

So how accurate is our online journaling? And would it become more truthful if we were aware of where it travels to and how it lives?

In time, all posts turn to dusty digital memories of broken links, imprints of ones and zeros lasting forever on a clunky server somewhere — available to the government along with everyone else, and yet no one at all.

The migration from analog to digital affects everything. From how we read, to how we take notes, to how we choose to access the latest episode of “Breaking Bad.” With new digital technologies, we’re even experiencing a major shift in how our own personal narratives are captured.

The media always places such huge emphasis on how the next superstars on the internet are members of its audience. Apparently anyone can be a star. In an era of reality TV shows and talent competitions, “the dream” is achievable with a little bit of talent — and a whole lotta self-disclosure.  Remember back in 2006 when TIME Magazine chose their Person of the Year?  That person has been replaced by groups of individuals. Movements. Memes. Flashmobs.

Yet stardom comes at a price. We’re encouraged to post, check in, snap photos and share, all because companies are farming our data and selling it to the highest bidder. They learn everything about us. We become numbers and marketing fodder to the most extreme degree.

So how often do we want to see that share button? We know it’s possible to overshare and likely know folks guilty of abusing it.  Even as I type this sentence into a Google document, the big blue “share” button looms above. It offers the temptation to publish or share my thoughts before the idea is even complete.

Day One is a new app for OSX that allows users to journal freely and privately. It encourages the user to create reminders to write. And for more fleeting moments, Path is an app that allows the recording of check-ins, tweets, and photos to share with a closer-knit community.

Whether it’s an advertiser or a prospective date, data mining is all too easy. We need more options for journaling privately based on the tools available to us. At the very least, we need more control over the release of our personal information. As we shift into digital and cloud-based methodologies for documenting our lives, we need to consider alternatives while moving our personal documentation to the digital space.

Revisit Part One of this series.

Data is the new Journal. (part 1)

I don’t have much room for storage in the small bungalow apartment where I live. I like to tell people that I adhere strictly to a “one in, one out” policy. When something new comes in, something old must go out. This helps to reduces clutter and the accumulation of “things.”

One mainstay that continues to grow is a small collection of boxes. They’re called “memory boxes” as loosely defined by my cryptic writing penned with a black Sharpie.

One is stuffed with ticket stubs, conference badges, matchbooks, and other random mementos. Another is filled with dog-eared journals. It’s not that I have no memory (this is debatable), but having these boxes of information helps to recall random events upon which nothing interesting happened “at the time.”

The journals are tattered and full, evidence of everyday journeys jotting down random notes during pause. They contain to-do lists, random thoughts, poetry, un-sent “love” letters, and general wordplay at-large. There’s a specific notebook I wrote in every day for about two years in high school. I’ve kept it securely in each apartment I’ve had during the last decade.

It’s funny because reading that particular journal now, I wrote about predictable teenage dilemmas like dating and school. I dutifully noted milestone events – like graduating from college – which makes me wonder why I wanted to keep it hidden in the first place.

I’ve written juicier stuff in a moleskin that sat next to the subject as he unknowingly rode in my car.

Point is, these boxes of artifacts and journals, although surface level at times, are rewarding to read now. Looking back, I wish I would’ve documented more.

Many of these physical tombs have since been superceded by the digital equivalent of the lesser friendly one and zero. The digital medium cancels out the physical product we’ve come to know and love under the genre of “things” and/or “stuff.” Digital documentation makes slightly more anonymous my own personal story, style as a writer, and self-described position as social misanthrope.

I imagine how it would have came across if it were possible to capture those same stories online back then. Would I have captured more detail? Would I have captured less? Would my writing appear authentic, or would it come across as impersonal because I was using software, an app, or had the option to make it available for all to see?

On my birthday last year, I happened to check Facebook only to notice a little box on the homepage where ads are typically placed. It read that on my birthday, two years ago, I ran 2.3 miles. Did I? Come to think of it, I did! I went home early from work and went on a run before going out to dinner with family.

The run was logged by Nike run, which was connected to Facebook. I wouldn’t have remembered what I did that day without the help of this little reminder.

If sites and services can tap into the information we enable it with, they should in turn deliver back useful patterns and information about ourselves we weren’t previously aware of. This creates a data journal of its own.

When everything else is going digital it only seems natural to document our lives in a way that makes technology work for us. Tools make it easy to document everything from how we slept last night to where we’ve been.

So, if our information is being collected to sell to others, where’s the payoff? There should be long-term personal gain from the use of it. At the very least, we should have increased control over where it travels to.

An app called Path is a step between Facebook and Twitter. It’s more exclusive than Facebook, and doesn’t speak to everyone like Twitter does.

The app has a limit to the amount of friends you can have. Specifically, it’s set at 140.
It allows you to connect with loved ones – people you actually know in the real world.

From their website:

“Path was designed with the people you love, your close friends and family, in mind. Share in a trusted, intimate, environment like the dinner table at home.”

I experimented with posting a few personal thoughts and opinions to Path – things I would never trust going to Facebook or Twitter or where everyone else is.

I felt that I was confiding in folks I already know, and trust, and don’t see very often. I also found that people were willing to express heartfelt thoughts and emotions back.

Journaling takes on many forms. The part where we monitor little things like where we were, what we were listening to and how we were feeling seem ok to share and syndicate to our social networks.

But deeper insights are long-form and will always be best applicable to the old-fashioned paper and pen. Don’t get me wrong, it can still be digital – I appreciate bamboo products just as much as the next nerd (maybe more), but that kind of stuff doesn’t need to go public. It’s more personal than anything else – critical to one’s personal expression, growth, and discovery for later on.

Continue to Part 2


Old technology goes digital and digital wants to be old.
Steely and cold, virtual buttons and twistable knobs want to be warm and prone to vulnerability while remaining in it’s virtuous authenticity, like analog.

How can distractions be redefined?

Thoughts on Geolocation, Privacy, And The Advancement Of Technology

Apple and Google are both being sued under the recent discovery that the iPhone and Android smartphones track users wherever they go. 

Apple stated that they have never tracked users’ locations, but admitted to a bug that inherently collects user data by logging a complete history of travels by way of timestamped latitude and longitude. This week, they announced a software update that prevents the iPhone and iPad from storing these movements.

Continue reading

Call & Response: Rethinking Storytelling in Video

Here are a couple of quick wireframes I mocked up for a really cool contest hosted over at MediaShift’s Idea Lab, in conjunction with The Knight Mozilla News Technology Partnership. These ideas demonstrate how new web video tools can transform storytelling in the news. From APIs to Creative Commons, live-streaming tools to interactive maps, we now have the ability to craft stories in new and compelling ways. And when it comes to video, the opportunities are endless!

Continue reading